I know many of us educators (and those at home) have been working hard all year to try to cultivate or protect a love of reading in our learners despite the incredible obstacles we have faced. Now with warmer temperatures and summer beckoning for the Northern Hemisphere comes the real test; will kids keep reading over the summer? Is what we did enough? Did we lay enough of a foundation, get them excited, get them hooked so that the next few weeks or months will not put them in a reading drought? While time will truly be the judge of how the work might pay off, here are a few ideas that may help depending on the age of the learner.
Every year we send home an email to our home adults to offer them ideas for helping their child stay reading over the summer. This gives us a chance to also highlight our summer check out programs run by our amazing school library staff, and share that their to-be-read lists that they have been cultivating will also be sent home. I have shared the email here before, but wanted to offer the ideas up again in a blog post as well for easy sharing.
So if you are a “home adult” as we call it, someone who is in charge of children outside of school, here are a few ideas for keeping kids connected to reading throughout summer. What other ideas do you have?
From the email home
As you may know, one of our main focuses in 7th grade is to help promote fun-filled independent reading throughout the year for all kids. We do this through independent reading time every day, practicing full choice in books all year, establishing joy-filled reading communities, and providing access to books for all kids. Now that summer is upon us, we wanted to offer up a few ideas to hopefully help your learner continue to read over the summer even when school is out.
Why is summer reading important?
From the Dept of Education, “Numerous studies indicate that students who don’t read or read infrequently during their summer vacation see their reading abilities stagnate or decline. This effect becomes more pronounced as students get older and advance through the school system.”
Every year, about a third of our students report not reading a single book over the summer while another third report reading just one. We see this then play out in their reading abilities and relationships as they come ready for 8th grade and beyond. Simply put, when children don’t read over the summer we see a decline in their reading skills which means that they start the next year at a deficit.
How can we help?
We want your learner to have awesome reading experiences this summer and we want to make it easy for them, this is why our school library will have summer check out again this year. Every learner, who is returning to Oregon Middle School for 8th grade, can check out books before school even ends and then also throughout the summer as the library will have open dates throughout the summer.
We will also send home your learner’s to-be-read list via email if they have one. This is the list we have worked on all year and it should hold many title ideas for your child as they try to find their next great read.
How can you help?
While we know many of you already promote summer reading – thank you! – here are a few more ideas on helping home adults make great summer reading plans:
Have a to-be-read list. All year we have cultivated ours, trying to add as many titles as possible so that when the students leave our classrooms they have something to help guide them when they are either at the library or at the bookstore. This is especially important for our “vulnerable” readers, those who have just discovered that books and reading may be for them after all and need a constant diet of amazing books. But really all kids should have one, not just some. Our students have been working on theirs and will share it in the upcoming week with their home adults, so reach out and ask your learner’s teacher to see if they have one made. Even if the school has not created a to-be-read list it is not too late to make one! Browse the displays at the library or at the bookstore if they are open or look for ideas on online for great summer reading for your child’s age group and write it down somehow. Keep the list on you because you never know when you come across an opportunity to find more books. I also share a lot of recommendations on my Instagram.
Make it social. I love reading a great book and then talking to others about the book or even better passing the book on to them. Make reading a social aspect of your summer; have reading “parties” where kids can discuss books in a safe way, create a book swap with other families, scour garage sales for long-lost favorites. Offer up yourself to read with your learner or get more than one copy of a book (if you have access to them) so that others may join in the reading. Too often as home adults we think we should read all of the books our child is reading and while that can be a fun bonding experience, it may be more powerful if you can get a friend of your child to be a reading partner.
Visit places where books are present. We go to the library a lot; when it is too hot and the pool is not open, when it is stormy, when we are tired. We also go to our local bookstore and browse safely. Accessing book, touching books, getting excited about books and anything that we can read is vital to keep the desire alive. Sign up for the public library’s reading challenge or make it a routine every week to go and get new books if you have transportation. Spend a few hours reading while you are there. If there is no library or the library is not accessible to you, reach out to your learner’s school, is there a way they can lend you books? Our school library does a summer checkout before the end of the year, as do I. If you are not able to go places where there are books, ask your child’s teacher if you may borrow a big stack of books from them if you promise to bring them back. I have often lent books to families over the summer as a way to help them keep reading.
Read aloud. Many home adults assume that their older kids do not want to be read aloud to, and yet, my students tell us repeatedly how much they miss it. So why not find a great book and take some time to experience the book together?
Use audiobooks. I love that I can borrow audiobooks from our library – both the collected stories of Hans Christian Andersen and many other series have captured our imagination for months. When your children are in the car, put on an audiobook. Have a copy of the book ready if anyone wants to keep reading and you have reached your destination. With all of the research coming out correlating audio books with further reading success this is a winning situation.
Find great books. Get connected online to communities like #Titletalk, #BookADay, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, or Nerdy Book Club to get ideas of what to read next. I am constantly adding to my wish list due to these places. Use the professionals like librarians, booksellers and teachers. Also, ask other home adults what their kids are reading, create a Facebook page to share recommendations or simply use you own page or whatever social media platforms you use, anything to find out what great books are available.
Create a routine. We read every night and sometimes even in the morning (as well as throughout the day but then again we may be slightly book-obsessed). Helping your child create a routine where reading is a natural part of the day mean that they will create ownership over the habit, thus (hopefully) inspiring further reading. I encourage my students to read first thing in the morning before they get up or as the last thing they do before falling asleep. Whatever the routine may be, sit down and read yourself, it is vital for all of our children to see their home adults as readers.
Allow real choice. I have seen some home adults (and schools) require learners to read certain books over summer, but summer is meant to be guilt-free reading. Where we reach for those books we cannot wait to read because they will suck us right in, where we fill up our reserves so we can perhaps finally tackle that really challenging book that we have been wanting to read. Where we explore new books because we want to. Too often rules and expectations infringe on the beauty of summer reading; falling into a book’s pages and not having to come up for air until it is done. That also goes for reading things that may be “too easy” or “too hard” – I devour picture books, graphic novels and all thing “too easy” in the summer, as well as trashy beach reads and Danish crime mysteries. I refuse to feel guilty about my choices in reading, because that is never what reading is about. And that extends into the year of reading I do when school is back in session as well.
Have books everywhere. Again, this depends on how many books you have access to, but leave books wherever your kids go. I have books in the car, in their rooms, in the kitchen, living room, etc. That way the books seem to fall into their hands at random times; stopped in traffic, quiet time before lunch, a sneak read before falling asleep. It is a luxury to have books in our house and so we try to make them as visible as possible. Again, ask your child’s teacher if they have books you can borrow if you do not have the opportunity to build your own collection.
Allow and celebrate abandonment, but ask questions. When a child abandons a book, this is a great thing. They are learning that this book is not for them and they can use their energy for a book that will be for them. But ask questions so that they may think about what type of book they might like. So they can think about what type of reader they are and want to be. Make sure that there are other books they want to read as well so that they can keep trying to find great books.
Explore new books together. Summer can be a great time to try to push your own habits of reading, as long as it doesn’t feel like a chore. Set a reading challenge, compete against each other if you want, challenge each other to read each other’s favorite books and revel in the shared experience.
Be invested and interested. This does not mean that you ask your child to write reports about what they read, in fact, I would be very careful as to what type of work goes along with reading over the summer beside reading, but do ask questions. Ask whether they enjoy the book or not. What they plan on reading next. Read along with them or beside them. Make reading a part of your life so it can become a part of theirs.
Keep it fun. Too often, especially if our child is not a well-developed reader, we can get rather nervous as home adults and think that we must keep them on a regimented reading program at all costs. That we must have them write about reading or track it somehow. Have them read, yes, but keep it light and fun. The last thing we want to do is to make reading a worse experience for them or adding more stress to your family.
What other ideas do you have?
I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.